Gadgets

Does your baby really need a wearable monitor? Sproutling makes a compelling case that they do

If you don’t understand why a baby would need a wearable device, chances are you don’t have kids.

Paraphrasing film producer Judd Apatow, Sproutling CEO Chris Bruce said: “You don’t really know whats it’s like to be a parent until it’s 3 a.m. and you’re 4 inches away from your baby’s face trying see if they’re breathing,” he said.

An understanding of experience is at the core of Sproutling, which is creating a wearable baby monitor that not only helps parents keep track of their babies’ vitals but also uses the data it collects to help them make decisions.

“We’re raising the parenting IQ. Our goal is to make a first-time parent feel like a second-time parent,” Bruce told VentureBeat earlier today.

With the device, which is joined by a base station and small camera, parents can monitor things such as a baby’s heart rate and breathing or the ambient temperature of the room — all from a smartphone. (You can compare it to something like the Owlet, which we’ve covered previously.)

This idea must be an attractive one for Sproutling’s investors, who have helped the company raise $2.6 million in a funding round announced this week. The investment led by First Round Capital, Forerunner Ventures, FirstMark Capital, and others, represents a major vote of confidence for Sproutling’s three-pronged approach to baby monitors: hardware, data, and insights. 

What’s more interesting than just the first Sproutling device, however, is the company’s vision for its future. While Sproutling 1.0 is focused on helping parents monitor their babies during the dicey first six months of life, future devices deals with the sort of issues children face as they get older. Bruce wouldn’t say exactly what Sproutling is working on on that front, but it’s not hard to imagine, say, a location tracker or even a kid-sized heart-rate monitor.

In other words, Sproutling isn’t just building a device — it’s also building a platform. And that’s just what investors like to hear.

“We like to think of ourselves as a Nest for nurseries,” Bruce said, referring to the popular Nest thermostat.

But the Nest influence on Sproutling goes deeper: Matt Rogers, a cofounder and the vice president of engineering at Nest, also gives Sproutling a fine bit of wisdom:  “People don’t want data; they want insights.”

This is a key point, not just for Spoutling (which has taken it to heart) but also for any company that considers itself a part of the “quantified self” movement: For most people, data by itself is useless. People need insights as well.

This, as Bruce points out, is especially true for parents, who are already constantly dealing with a significant amount of cognitive load.

“We’re really tying unburden parents by translating data into something meaningful. If I told you your child was at ’70 percent sleep,’ would that really mean anything to you?” Bruce said.

While Sproutling is backed by some strong ideas, we’ll have to wait a while to see how they manifest in a product: The company doesn’t plan to ship its first device until the second quarter of next year.


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